Residents of Prairie Oaks Subdivision in Coal City still need funding for completion of a major, much-needed sewage project.
The subdivision’s current sewage plant is not working properly because of problems in its original construction and is causing health and sanitary issues for homeowners.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency issued a mandate to fix the problem, which will involve connecting the homes to Coal City’s main sewage plant and decommissioning the subdivision’s current plant.
The project will cost about $925,000 and the residents, with help from Coal City, have secured all but $105,000 of the needed funds. Several Prairie Oaks residents came to last month’s Grundy County Finance Committee meeting searching for funds but left empty-handed after the committee decided to look into other funding options before allotting any county money to the project.
The residents appealed to the Grundy County Finance Committee for the second time at the most recent meeting held last week, but the committee was again unable to commit any funds for the project.
Currently, the village of Coal City, the residents and the state are contributing most of the money needed. Coal City was awarded a $329,000 community block grant from the state in 2011 to help pay for the project. The remaining $596,000 will be funded during the next 10 years through a tax agreement between the homeowners and the village.
“You hate to see a $1 million plan just go away,” Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said during the meeting. “Coal City is in, the state is in, the homeowners are in – you lose $900,000 put together because we don’t do anything. In my estimation, that’s probably wrong.”
Because of current budget uncertainties, the committee was reluctant to commit a large amount of money to the project because the county may need those funds later in the year.
The $105,000 needed would be used to decommission the old sewage plant, which currently still has waste stored inside.
Since the IEPA is most concerned with removing the active waste inside the plant, the committee said they would be willing to pay for the removal of the waste alone, but not the decommission of the entire plant.
“There’s a piece of this that is live [sewage] that the EPA wants out,” Chris Balkema, committee member, said at the meeting. “Then there’s infrastructure and metal that really doesn’t matter.”
Homeowner Jerry Cyrkiel attended both finance meetings to plea for funds.
Cyrkiel said he was unsure how much the waste removal would cost since the community was quoted for the entire tear down project. He said he will bring an updated quote for the waste removal, if he is able, to the next finance meeting.
“If you take care of that hot piece, you get the EPA out of it,” Balkema assured the committee.
But the county’s contribution still may not be enough if residents are forced to bear too much of the remaining costs. The residents already are facing a $1,200 to $1,500 per home, per year, tax increase to help pay for the project, Cyrkiel said. He said he thinks the residents would be unwilling and unable to bear much more of the cost burden.
“These are people with limited incomes,” he said at the last committee meeting.
If the $105,000 isn’t paid, the whole project would fall apart and grant funding would disappear, Cyrkiel said. Severson suggested the committee consider at least $50,000 for the project because it could become the county’s problem if the IEPA mandate is not satisfied.
“Someday the EPA could come knocking on our door,” Severson said to the committee. “At the end of the day, the county is the arbitrator or the last thing for the health and welfare of the citizens.”
The county board has to approve any spending in amounts more than $20,000 so the committee reserved a line on the next county board agenda for the project funding.
If they contribute a significant amount of money, the committee worried the expenditure will not make it through county board. In the meantime, the committee and residents work to find a balance.
“I think they intended not to come to us,” committee member John Almer said. “But they’re here now.”